Ping ... ping ... buzz ... brrring. I’m sitting in a restaurant with three girlfriends of a certain age and their mobiles are exploding. Girlfriend No 3 has been given The Number by a friend of a friend of a friend who knows someone who works at Vogue, and she’s selectively distributing it. But not to me. “You’ll go and write about it, and then we won’t be able to get appointments any more!” she says.
“It” is the Most Amazing Facial Ever. For these days modern takes on the one-time steam-and-cleanse routine have become some of the most-desired treatments in beauty.
In fact, it’s so coveted that facialists now go on vacation with their clients (or, at least, they go to where their clients vacation), lest the poor women have to go without for a week or so. John Tsagaris, for example, decamps from Knightsbridge to the Maldives One & Only resort; Sarah Chapman makes guest appearances at Florence’s Grand Hotel Villa Cora and the Capri Palace; and Alexandra Soveral does stints in Los Angeles, where her nature-meets-science facials are in high demand. She also spends time in New York attending to an ever-lengthening waiting list there; just as well, because last time I tried to get in with star facialist Tracie Martyn, my usual New York favourite, (Diane von Furstenburg and Kate Winslet are among her clients) between Fashion Week and Frieze, there wasn’t a spare couch to be had.
Personally, I blame Botox. As we get less enchanted with the frozen-face look, and more nervous about the possible long-term side-effects, the idea of a “natural” treatment that promises similar effects without the clinical downside is impossible to resist – despite the price. (When Tsagaris sees clients in Moscow, he charges up to €900, considerably more than it would cost in London but considerably less than it would cost for Muscovites to fly over here; it’s all relative.)
“More and more people are coming to me to eliminate stress,” says the facialist Nichola Joss, who reaches inside your mouth with her fingers to massage the gums to release the stress held by the jaw. It’s a bit like a trip to the dentist at first but the rest of the facial, with plenty of vigorous yet relaxing massage, more than makes up for it. Not only do you leave her clinic glowing and lifted, with sculpted cheekbones, but you receive a lesson in how to massage your face correctly.
If that’s all too touchy-feely for you, however, I recommend Debbie Thomas at Hari’s, who loves a machine. She recently gave me a Skin Breeze treatment, using red-light LED as well as microdermabrasion and oxygen, that held my face up for at least two weeks. She also offers laser and peels and, as a result, about 30 per cent of her clients have stopped having Botox, joining the 30 per cent who never started.
No wonder that, for skincare brand Soap & Glory’s recent revamp, founder Marcia Kilgore, a former facialist herself, came out of retirement donning a white coat to give facials to a select few beauty editors. “You forget I once did this for 15 years, nine hours a day, six days a week,” she says. Her own skin is blemish-free and line-free, as she’s religious about staying out of the sun. “It’s so much fun giving facials again – I feel like I’ve been let out to play in a sandbox!” she says.
To which I’d note: sure it’s fun if you have a more patient sort of temperament than me, as I discovered when I once decided to turn the tables and try to give a facial to someone else. Adrienne Harsanyi, the star facialist from Omorovicza, sat at my side guiding my every move, while an unsuspecting publicist played client. Frankly, someone should have paid her danger money.
Yes, I know, you’d think I’d have absorbed something from all these years of being on the receiving end. But while the facialist made encouraging noises about my progress, I was less enthusiastic, noticing that while her hands seemed to float and flitter across the face like a butterfly, mine tended to flip-flop, all leaden and clumsy.
It did, however, make me realise that, in this case, you get what you pay for. So in that spirit, I would like to reveal that there’s a facialist TDF (to die for) who goes by the name of Dr Nigma up at BodyWorksWest in Notting Hill. You didn’t hear it from me.
For practitioners and prices visit www.ft.com/stylestockists
Facials with John Tsagaris start from £235, www.johntsagaris.co.uk
Facials with Sarah Chapman start from £160, www.sarahchapman.net
Facials with Tracie Martyn start from US$ TK, www.traciemartyn.com
Facials with Alexandra Soveral start from £235, www.alexandrasoveral.co.uk
Facials with Nichola Joss start from £175, www.sanctuary.com
Skinbreeze facial with Debbie Thomas starts from £185, www.harissalon.com
Omorovicza facials from £160 at the Four Seasons hotels; www.omorovicza.com
Dr Nigma, BodyWorksWest; www.bodyworkswest.co.uk